Well, we're not camera shy.

Hey! People keep taking pictures of us and posting them on the Internet. Maybe because we're so dang cute. Here's our latest celebritaaaaay....

This photo courtesy of Amber, our Brooklyn friend who took great portraits of me and Chris down at SXSW.

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Zeldman, an internet legend, and a fine man to have a drink with at SXSW.

Here we are, the work-a-holics. Working from the cafe last Wednesday before the Talent Show. This one was snapped by Avi, who is the resident photog at all Arc events.


Baking for the vegans.

I like to bake, but I don't like to have whole batches of cookies and muffins and cakes sitting around, waiting to attach themselves to my thighs. Solution? Bake on Sunday night! After one serving of the baked goods, everything's packed up and shipped off to Arc90 the next morning as a kick-start to the week for my coworkers.

I made cookies a week or two ago and Joe asked me if they were vegan. Fail. Ever since this guy started at Arc last fall, I've known that he was a vegan and couldn't eat the normal baked surprises... and every time I brought something in, I felt terrible.

But! Tonight! I'm making up for it. Tonight I tried Emily's Strawberry Jam Surprise Muffins, which are 100% vegan and 100% making our apartment smell ri-freaking-diculous.

But how do you make muffins vegan? Emily calls for an egg replacement using Flax Meal... LUCKILY I got some of this a few months ago with Kelley!

1 tbsp flax meal + 3 tbsps water = 1 egg

Also, can we just take a minute to look at that measuring cup? THE ONE THAT IS SHAPED LIKE A BIRD??? We got some sweet gifts last week at our engagement party, but this little set of bird measuring cups are squeal-worthy. Evidence B:

Anyhoo, back to the muffins. So what's cool (and tricky) about these muffins is that you add a layer of strawberry jam in between 2 tbsp of batter. Here's how the muffin pan looked after the first layer:

My batter was not as smooth as Emily's, but I'm guessing that's because I used whole wheat flour and not all-purpose. Next up was the jam layer:

I wish they were a little more... graceful in there, but hey, who doesn't like a glob of strawberry jam? Last step was to add another tbsp of batter on top:

Put them in the oven for 20 minutes and presto, change-o! Look at this insanity:

Ideally, you don't want to see the layers, but I don't think anyone's going to mind that much. Next time I'll add a little extra almond milk to make the batter thinner and add less jam so that the seam closes up nicely. And maybe I'll switch it up... BLUEBERRY jam, anyone?


And there you have it!

We're in Pennsylvania so Chris can meet my extended family this weekend, but here's something to make up for it. One of my bridesmaids, Goldie, moved to San Fran recently and can't be in on some of the wedding fun, so we made her a video after our engagement party on the street.

It's times like these that technology really comes through.


Soul Stories: on being outgoing.

Talking and opening champagne. Yep.

I'm always in a great mood after ballet. It might be the endorphins, but I secretly think it has something to do with having great teachers. Teaching adult ballet seems to bring out the funny in people, and there are so many wonderfully hilarious moments in trying to look graceful when you are not.

Last night was no exception and we ended class on a high note as the teacher summed up our practice. "Movement is life," she said. "That's what dance is! It's not just standing still… and if it was, I'd have jumped off a bridge a long time ago." She talked a little about the importance of dancing with other people, how it's not a solitary sport, how it has a lot to do with the energy of other dancers around you.

And it got me thinking about this moment I had two weeks ago at the Happy Cog 80's party at SXSW. It was late in the evening and most of the members of the Arc crowd were playing pool in the corner or sitting on the couches. I felt like dancing, so I made my way over to the dance floor where there was a whole bunch of strangers dancing their hearts out.

I spotted Tyler and Tim on the sidelines.

"Watch this!" I said. "I'm going to go over to a random group of people and make my way into their group by dancing like them!"

First I approached a group of people with their fists in the air and so I lifted my hand towards the sky, sang along to the lyrics and permeated the circle immediately. They all smiled and welcomed me and after a few minutes, I did the same thing with another random group of dancers. It was one of those magical nights, when you really feel you can do anything. You're on the same frequency as the other happy people around you and you're all just noisily buzzing with sameness.

A little while later I did a little ballet routine on the stage and followed it up with some air guitar with complete strangers. It reminded me of the night that Maddy, Katie and I started a dance party from scratch at our favorite bar in Paris. And it really, really made me miss them.

Because the truth is that the majority of people I spend my time around these days are introverts. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with introverts! But. Sometimes I feel like the only one who wants to dance, the only one who wants to make conversation… and sometimes I resent that the social load falls on my shoulders a little too often.

Last night as I took the subway home from ballet, I thought about what I love about some of my more outgoing friends. They are loud, but not obnoxious. They are spirited without being patronizing. And they are enthusiastic without the slightest bit of irony. This enthusiasm stems from the realization that life is awesome and that people are awesome.

These friends enter a room and lift everyone with them. These friends are bold and want to discuss everything with their hands flapping and can't believe there are only 24 hours in a day. They are exhausting and I need to eat four breakfasts just to keep up with their energy, but I am so grateful for them.

Because the truth is, that I, too, am amazed by life almost every single day. I am intrigued by people's stories and by the possibilities that we all have. I can't believe that I told my brother and sister I might become a runner on December 26 and three months later, I'm running 10 miles a week. I can't believe that I wanted to live in France and it happened-- three times! I can't believe that I traveled to India for a wedding and that I'm going to be having my own in a few months. Life is strange and sometimes limiting, but very often it's a huge, gaping room, waiting to be filled with beautiful things.

It's hard to write these kinds of sentences because they don't sound genuine. Adoring life is hard for some people to hear about, and so I tend to keep my enthusiasm to a minimum around people who could squash it. Sometimes I am so tired, exhausted even, because it is draining work finding joy everywhere you can. But it's worth it; it's worth being this person that I am and it's worth looking for other outgoing souls so that we can connect and get energized and have great times.

Now go have a happy weekend! Snuggle some puppies, perhaps!

Les livres de 2011: round 2

Oscar could read more if he would quit napping so much.
This morning I got an email from Chris' stepmom, Beth... she mentioned that her book club was reading Man Walks into a Room, a decision that was partially influenced by my blog! So awesome.

It's been a while since I posted book reviews and her email was enough to spark this next set. This group of books cover my main interests of late- notably running, Henry VIII and uncomfortable situations. Without further ado, away we go!

7. Pre by Tom Jordan
Tim, one of my colleagues at Arc, is a great resource for books to read. When I told him I was studying memory, he sent me a link to 101 Theory Drive. When I started running, he made a joke about Steve Prefontaine and I gave him a blank look. Blasphemous, apparently.

This is a quick read and, quite honestly, was kind of written like a middle school book report. But the basics are there and I definitely learned who Pre was, what he contributed to the running community, and got inspired to run on his trail in Eugene, OR during our honeymoon. Pre is one of the names to know if you're into running (or want to be into running).

8. The Tiger by John Vaillant
Alright. Picture this. I'm about to launch the Soul semester and I'm looking for books about dramatic and terrifying situations to put on the syllabus. As I'm poking around Amazon, I find this book and I watch the video by the author who talks about a man-eating tiger... and I'm hooked.

This book is about a TIGER who kills (and eats) a dude in Russia... and we later find out that it was premeditated! In fact, after he kills the man, the tiger starts hunting down the man's friends! Holy moly, I had some terrifying subway rides while reading this one.

I will add that there's a fair amount of side story about the history of Eastern Russia, the poverty and the relationship between the Russians and the Chinese. Sometimes that got a little dry. But then the tiger came back into the story! And I got scared again. Read this book!

9. The Age of Comfort by Joan Dejean
From tigers to 17th century Paris... ahhh, reading. Takes you so many places in the same week. This book is on the Soul syllabus and it was SO INTERESTING. Have you ever wondered why people made armchairs when wooden stools were perfectly functional? Have you ever wondered about a time before HANGERS EXISTED? This is your book.

I seriously learned so many fun facts in this book that I wanted to immediately attend 13 cocktail parties just to make conversation. Long story short, one of the kings in France started a trend towards private life when he built interior apartments at Versailles. From that stemmed bathrooms that were separate from kitchens, flowing and comfortable clothes (to hide his mistresses' pregnancies!), and couches whose fabrics were changed four times per year, based on the fashions of the season. Super, super interesting.

10. The Bitch in the House by Cathi Hanauer
Note to self: next time you take a leisurely vacation, do not read a book that will stir your blood. I picked this book up because it was the APW book club pick last month and, instead of feeling all lovey dovey about marriage, I felt rage. I was mad at the women who remained in terribly uneven relationships, I was mad at the men who sometimes took advantage of a woman's finances, and I was reaaaaal mad at society.

This book is a collection of essays about being a woman, wife, mother and beyond. I liked a few of the essays. Some were not particularly well-written. But overall, it was just too overwhelming for one book. By the 13th essay, I really wanted to say "DUDE. PUT A SOCK IN IT AND LEAVE YOUR MARRIAGE IF YOU'RE SO BUMMED OUT." So I think the moral of this story is moderation. No one needs to read 200 pages of tough marriage essays at the same time, especially when she is about to get married herself (and when she is somewhat opinionated).

11. The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen
Oh Jonathan Franzen. You are so famous. And yet! I had never read one of your books until this one. (Ok, I tried Freedom for a chapter, but couldn't get into it.) This was a nice little book of essays about growing up in Missouri, learning to find his way towards being a writer, and the death of his mother. I'm not sure why it's titled as it is. Maybe a nod towards his adolescence?

12. The Boelyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
Last year, my British friend Katie visited and left me a Philippa Gregory book as a gift for letting her stay with me. I was pretty obsessed with that book and spent a few days dreaming of myself in large, drafty halls and being named Queen of England. It was fiction, but it gave me some good basic knowledge of Henry VIII and his craziness.

Imagine my EXCITEMENT when I had dinner at Sarah's in London and I saw about 97 other Philippa Gregory books on her bookshelf. Not only did she pull this book off the shelf and give it to me, but she and Andrew recommended I visit Hampton Court, which is where Henry VIII lived with some of his wives.

This book is about the marriages of Henry to Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. He didn't like either of them much (especially Anne), but it was Catherine who got the ole' beheading. This book was like junk food; delicious and easy to put away.

13. A Rope and a Prayer by David Rohde and Kristen Mulvihill
I wrote about some of the excerpts of this book the other day. In short, this is the story of an American journalist who is kidnapped by the Taliban. He's held captive for 7 months; meanwhile, his new wife is in New York, attempting to run glamourous photo shoots with celebrities while she takes phone calls from the Taliban. And you thought your life was stressful!

This book was another one for my Soul semester, and I'm glad I read it. Some of David's sections went  pretty deep into the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan and that was all a bit over my head. But I could definitely relate to the emotional story being played out, which was one of relationships, survival and self-determination.

14. The Long Run by Matt Long
This book was not necessarily well-written, but the story was mind-blowing. A NY firefighter gets crushed by a bus while riding his bike and, 3 short years later, he's running a marathon. Despite the fact that almost all his organs were crushed and he had a ton of broken bones, he worked himself through rehab to get himself back to a life that he could at least recognize as his own.

An excerpt:
"And to run - to really run… meant being able to ever so briefly lift both feet off the ground at the same time with each step. Because technically that is running; that ability separates running from walking."
- p. 138

I loved this story of perseverance. It was such a breath of fresh air... what a human being this guy is! (In related news, he's going to be speaking at a running show I'm going to in April... can't wait to hear from him!)

15. Life After God by Douglas Coupland
And it all comes full circle back to Tim. One day Tim mentioned this book and when no one knew what he was talking about, he said "DOUGLAS COUPLAND!?!" and still no one knew what he was talking about and then he had a nervous breakdown. To comfort him, I ordered this book from the library.

It is SUCH a great read. It's not like anything you're going to expect. It's a short little book, full of chapters that are 1-4 pages long. It's a fictional story about a guy who's trying to do a bit of thinking in his middle age. Think The Perks of Being a Wallflower, except 30 years later and in Vancouver.

Here's an excerpt:

"Brent said, 'Hey- you're always interested in interpreting your dreams. Here's an idea- why not try something else. Why not interpret your everyday life as though it were a dream, instead. Say to yourself, 'A plane's flying overhead now- What does this mean?' Say to yourself, 'It's raining so much lately- What does this mean?' Say to yourself, 'Today I thought I had rediscovered Laurie- but it turned out it was someone else instead. What does this mean?' I think this makes life an easier thing. I really do."
- page 258

Wowza. I'm about to buy myself a copy of this, just so I can underline and write all over it. I'll probably pick one up for my brother too; I think he'd like it.


A Rope and a Prayer- excerpts

This weekend I finished A Rope and a Prayer, the story of an American journalist who was kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for 7 months over the border in Pakistan. One of the reasons I was inspired to study discomfort and tough times for 3 months was my curiosity with how a deeper self can be revealed in extreme moments. This book did not disappoint.
Bookshelves at Maddy's in London.

I'm no expert on that area of the world and to be honest, I'm way behind on my news reading. I almost didn't want to start this book because I thought it would be out of my league and that it would be full of torture. I don't sleep well when I read about or watch movies about torture, so I was happy when the book was a very reasonable read for me, no torture and instead, lots of thoughtful moments.

The chapters flip between David's story (the kidnapped journalist) and Kristen's story (his wife, an editor at Cosmo). And while neither of them are particularly religious when the book begins, it was interesting to watch their slow path towards prayer.

"I try to view this through a larger lens: Why is this happening? What am I meant to learn from this situation? Patience. Surrender. These things spring to mind. Patience is my least favorite virtue, but I am certain this is the lesson I am meant to master through this harrowing test… I pray for the strength to not give up and, simultaneously, the ability to surrender. My prayer does not take a traditional or eloquent form of incantation. I do not have the strength for this. I merely express the words, "Help me, help us." These seem the most fitting and easiest to access."
- Kristen, page 105

"As time passes, I realize I must control my thoughts to fight off depression. Certain actions immediately raise my spirits, such as walking, talking with Tahir, and reliving moments with Kristen. Other actions leave me discouraged, such as conversations with the guards. Strictly managing my day and my thoughts becomes a survival tool. 

For the first time in my life, I begin praying several times a day. I struggle to remember the Lord's Prayer and don't know if I'm reciting it correctly. Resorting to prayer heightens my sense of desperation, but it also gives me something to do each day, a task the guards cannot stop me from silently completing. In the months ahead, I will realize that prayer is something they can never take from me."
- David, p. 112



Taking it easy

Here we are, ready to greet the masses!
This morning, after putting Chris' mom in a cab at 4:30am, we woke up around 9 and I lay there, thinking of all the things I had to do today. March has been a rough month for us; the traveling and the being off our schedules and the insane amounts of work and socializing has been depleting.

And so today, I decided to let go of what had to be done and instead, decided to fill my day with things that would give me my energy back, even just a little. Because March is not yet over, and we have another trip next weekend and a busy week coming up. Best to fill the gas tank up, even 1/4, than run on fumes.

I made myself a fruit salad this morning for breakfast and had the other half of a blueberry corn muffin leftover from yesterday. We watched crappy television for a few hours. And in a few minutes, I'm going to strap on my running shoes and do my long weekend run... not because I have to, but because it will give me energy.

Today I'm going to enjoy the sunshine and maybe even do a little gardening. I might make some cookies for work tomorrow. I might listen to music or read my book or take a nap. Last night's engagement party at the Clover Club (which was... AWESOME!) was a great reminder of the wedding that's coming soon. Today will hopefully be a reminder of the relaxing honeymoon to follow.

More pix from the party here.


There are so many hats in this post.

I had this whole post brewing about being tired and feeling vulnerable and wishing I could take a break from society and then I decided "you know what? It is not worth it!"

Here is what IS worth putting out into the universe:

That is me after I ran FOUR MILES on my long run in Austin. What the! I know, I know... you no longer recognize me. I am some kind of weird athletic blogger now, one who wears shorts and a visor.

Well, no fear... you can't kill off an intense, hyper-analytic, type-A blogger that easily! There will be many posts to come about the meaning of crowded subways and the beauty of letting a spider in your living room live another day.

In the meantime, HATS!


Life list, visiting Texas: check.

Signs of spring outside Maddy's apt in London.
It feels like I just got back into the swing of things and now we're off to Austin tomorrow for SXSW. I feel simultaneously psyched on a professional level (content strategy sessions, I am THERE.) and pumped on a social level (ummm hello, parties every night!). Once again, I'm packing my running gear and it occurs to me that maybe I should have some kind of "running in random places" blog, except that the idea of blogging about and photographing the traveling running makes me even more tired than the running itself. Idea = canceled.

I'm not Catholic or anything, but I usually try to give something up for Lent (because I like a good challenge). This year, instead of giving something up, I'm going to do something extra! I will be eating a piece of fruit every day, which, let's be honest, is probably something that should just happen anyway. Today I had a banana while driving back from a client presentation in New Jersey. Our presentation went well and when my zipcar and I got to the Verazzano bridge, I did a little dance in my seat because, damn. Important client presentation. Driving home to our sweet apartment in Brooklyn. Off to schmooze with smart, inspiring people in Austin for the next 6 days.

Feeling very, very grateful lately.

So I'll see you all when I see you! Maybe some blogging from Austin, maybe not. In the meantime, you can read this smart post that Chris wrote for the Arc blog. See? He's a writer too!

If you happen to be at SXSW, we (Arc90/Readability) are probably going to organize some drinks for Sunday night after the Arc90/Behavior Design talk... watch Twitter for more info. So, come hang out and introduce yourself! We will not be weird about it.


The Ugly Stuffed Squirrel.

I finished The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen last week. It was a refreshing little book of personal essays, just the way they exist best: original and yet totally relatable.

In one of the essays, he writes quite a bit about the Charlie Brown comic strips he loved as a kid and how he identified with the characters. He writes on page 39:

"Everything I do makes me feel guilty," says Charlie Brown. He's at the beach, and he has just thrown a pebble into the water, and Linus has commented, "Nice going... It took that rock four thousand years to get to shore, and now you've thrown it back."

... I felt guilty about shunning my mother's hugs when she seemed to need them most. I felt guilty about the washcloths at the bottom of the stack in the linen closet, the older, thinner washcloths that we seldom used. I felt guilty for preferring my best shooter marbles, a solid red agate and a solid yellow agate, my king and my queen, to marbles farther down my rigid marble hierarchy. I felt guilty about the board games that I didn't like to play - Uncle Wiggily, U.S. Presidential Elections, Game of the States- and sometimes, when my friends weren't around, I opened the boxes and examined the pieces in the hope of making the games feel less forgotten. I felt guilty about neglecting the stiff-limbed, scratchy-pelted Mr. Bear, who had no voice and didn't mix well with my other stuffed animals. To avoid feeling guilty about them, too, I slept with one of them per night, according to a strict weekly schedule.

The poor unloved stuffed animals! The ugly ones that you didn't want to put on your bed but could not bear to reject by shoving them in a closet or (horror) donating them to other kids, worried that they would retain the stain of being "unwanted" and disposable. This passage hit me hard, the way that only personal essays can, the way that you want to call up the author and say "let's grab a beer 'cause I've got an ugly stuffed squirrel to talk about."

Just another example of writing as connective, a force that joins people together in their reading.

Incidentally, I got some very nice emails about last week's post on marriage and I just wanted to point you all in the direction of A Practical Wedding if you're interested in reading more about bucking the traditions and stereotypes surrounding the event. When I have a moment of doubt about how we're planning flowers or bridesmaid dresses or the honeymoon (or the institution itself!), I pop over to that site and read lots of other opinions on how it can all go down. It's a lovely community and I highly recommend! (I also recommend Franzen's book, but I'll leave the good stuff for the next round of book reviews...)


Pix from the weekend

Oscar had a blast in a box.

Bridesmaid brunch with 4/6 of the prettiest bridesmaids on the planet! (We missed you, Kate and Goldie!)

Hanging with Leigh at her apartment with RADLEY THE DOG!

Sunday co-cooked dinner: Chris made the potatoes and I made healthy chicken fingers (replaced mustard with some spices).


Discomfort? How about this discomfort?

No post-run pastries this morning!
How is running going? Funny you should ask. I'm into the third week of training for a 10k and I've been feeling like the runs are getting a little stale. Running 2.5 and 3 milers three times a week can get a little tedious... mostly because the always-increasing challenges of beginning running have been absent for a while.

No fear, because today's scheduled run was the first of several longer runs that I'll do in this training. Today was 3.5 miles, longer than I've ever run, and it was tough. I wanted to stop several (see: many) times. I did stop at one point to stretch when I was on the Brooklyn Bridge coming back towards Brooklyn. Mental battles all the way, feeling as though I wasn't moving fast enough, wondering why I was so out of breath, pissed at the tourists in my way.

And yet. My hair is long enough to pull back and not need bobby pins. I ran those 3.5 miles in 38 minutes. It was warm enough to run in short sleeves. The running I did today resembled nothing like it looked on January 1, when I was running 2 minutes at a time, when my hair was plastered to my head with pins, when I was bundled in winter gear.

Remember when I was scared of 20 minutes? I ran almost double that today and even if it didn't feel like a victory while I was doing it, it sure as hell looks like one on paper after the fact.

Damn. That feels good.


And then, all day, I was anxious about sitting down to write. We had talked about going to a cafe this afternoon, so I continued to think "four hours until I have to write." "Three hours until I have to write." Etc ad nauseum all day. Then we got to Starbucks and I ate my pumpkin bread slowly until finally I told myself to man up and open a damn new document.

The horror of those first two pages! The horror of wanting, after every paragraph, to write something else, anything else! My words were bad, so bad, no one would ever want to read them, was this even the right story? The right name for this character? My god, when had I started using words like "delightful"!?


Very reminiscent, interestingly, of the first 15 minutes of a run.

I wrote a scene for about a page and a half - the scene I've been thinking through for the past week or so. And then I didn't know what to write next. I put a star in the middle of a line and I pressed enter a couple of times and then I sat and looked at the blinking cursor. This next part is going to sound crazy.

I started talking to the character in my head. I asked Margaret what else I should know about. "What part of the story comes next, Margaret?" I asked.

And suddenly, an idea. Some dialogue. Things were flowing and I typed them, I caught up with them, I started to see how things were much more complicated than I had ever imagined for her. I found myself on page 3 and decided I would write 5 pages, regardless of how long it took me. Because suddenly I realized that stopping because I don't have an anticipated perfect paragraph is not a good excuse.

Halfway through page 4, I needed a new song. I scrolled through iTunes and (again, crazy) asked Margaret what we needed to listen to. I clicked on a song that I have never heard before and suddenly, an idea. I was off! I was onto page 5 and then I was finished with page 5 and now I'm sitting here, with 5 pages of writing in front of me and, most importantly, a very juicy moment to continue with next time.

Damn. That feels good.


Soul Stories: on taking the plunge.

To marry or not to marry? Which path do you choose?
When we were kids, my sister and I used to play Barbie wedding. It was kind of like regular Barbies, except that the dolls were dressed up in their finest and instead of playing in one of our rooms, we played in the living room. That was where the stereo was.

My mom had a CD of wedding music and while we may have played a song or two as the bridesmaids marched down the aisle, la piece de resistance was the enormous sound of an organ in the first few notes of "here comes the bride."

We played wedding often, though it was usually sparked by a Days of Our Lives wedding on TV. Upon seeing the processional and sensing the emotion, it put us in the mood. And while I loved the grandeur of it and the tradition, I have to say that I can't remember connecting it with me and my wedding.

When I graduated college in 2003, weddings weren't on anyone's minds. Oh sure, there were the kids that had known each other since high school or those who were deeply religious, but for the rest of us, we moved to New York or another large city and hit the dating scene. Sometimes you went to bars and sometimes you went to parties, but most of the time you sat around wondering if bars or parties would give you a better shot at meeting a good guy.

I think we did see marriage as the step that comes after a few years of dating, but back then it was so far off that there wasn't much point in hashing it out yet. The scarier thing was that, as people got into relationships and were dating for a few years, we started to hear about marriage threats and the delicate conversations that were hard for people to have in their mid-20s about whether marriage was coming down the pike- or not.

Marriage (and a wedding) is positioned as the inevitable next step in a relationship and one of the things I thought a lot about last week on vacation was... why?? We live in a generation in which half of the people we know have divorced parents. And another half of the ones who remain married are in such a state of miscommunication and bitterness that they might as well be.

If you're in a long-term relationship in 2011 and you haven't seriously considered not getting married, then you're either a fool or naive or both.

At some point during a long dinner with two French friends (one of whom is raising 2 sons with her partner (male) and plans to never marry), I started to think about the people I know who are married. And how much they complain! And how insensitive some can be! And how some of the cruelest things I've witnessed first-hand have been the cutting and disrespectful language someone uses on a spouse. Not to a stranger! To the person they MARRIED!

Marriage started to feel like the goal that everybody slogs towards, attempting to push their not-yet-ready relationships across a finish line, the goal that becomes the reason for regret within a couple of years. And I did sit there and think "are we ready for this? Are we getting married for the right reasons? Why are we getting married?" Because as much as I love the idea of getting people in a room to celebrate, I can't bear the thought of being at such odds with Chris one day that we can't even be civil anymore.

So why go through it?

There are some goals in life that aren't for everybody. A PhD is a great example of this. Tons of people want to get PhDs, but only a handful succeed. That's because it's hard work to get a PhD; you know it's going to be when you start out and you (hopefully) know what you're getting yourself into. A PhD isn't the end of anything, but rather the beginning of a long and sometimes difficult career.

So what if we imagined marriage to be this sort of project? Not everyone should get married. And if they choose to, then they should know that the marriage is just the beginning of a long and difficult road ahead. It isn't easy to live with someone for your whole life. It isn't easy to constantly recalibrate your day or your feelings to account for someone else's.

But some of us are interested in exactly this sort of thing.

Chris and I talked for a while when I got back last Sunday about all of this. I wanted to know his feelings on the subject. And in the end, we agreed that we're interested in working on a life-long relationship. That's why we're getting married. We feel that, in embarking on this kind of mission, he is the best possible partner for me and I am the best possible partner for him. That's why we're choosing each other for this mission: because in the face of something extremely daunting, we're each others' best chances.

Nothing is going to change by me writing this post. People will continue to roll through life towards marriage as if it is an inevitability, just as having a baby will replace marriage as the next thing to do. But last week's conversations illuminated this subtle (yet important) distinction for us: we are choosing marriage. We aren't tricking each other into it and we aren't pressured by others to get it done, we are deciding that it's the right step for us.

Now how about we let gay people go through this same process, hm?


Expensive effing gravy.

Yesterday I found a pair of perfect bridal sandals on sale at Zappos.com. So I bought them. And in my head, I thought, "look! sale sandals! this is going so well!"

This afternoon we got the quote back from the printer for our invitations, which will be printed with Letterpress, which will end up costing $20 a piece. And in my head, I thought, "I AM FLIPPING OUT."

Welcome to wedding planning, kids! Welcome to the land of budgets for the financially-unsavvy, the land of shuttle buses who seem to be more expensive than limos, of ministers who charge hundreds of dollars to tie your knot. And if you've never met me, then you don't yet know that I have inherited about 85% of my Dad's love of not spending money. It's important to me that our wedding is as simple and frugal as possible because, well, I would like to travel again in this lifetime. And sometimes buy organic milk.

Here's the scary thing: my aunt is baking our cakes. We are hand-making our guest favors. We did our save-the-dates at Kinko's for crying out loud. So what would have happened to our budget if we hadn't done anything homegrown?! That sound you hear is a bomb exploding in our newly-formed wedding bank account.

And so I take a deep breath. I arm myself with a new number for when we talk to a florist later this month, a smaller number, a number that will probably not result in the kinds of flowers people imagine for weddings. No matter. It will be a wedding.

Know why? Two people are making vows. That's all it takes, really - two people, two vows, and the rest is thousands and thousands of dollars of gravy on top.


The elephant in the room.

"How's writing going?" asked many of the people I stayed with during my trip.

I shifted uncomfortably in my British or French seat, depending. Because it's not. Writing is not going anywhere fast on this here computer. Oh sure, the blog is going fine... but the novel that I had been furiously working on for last summer's Iowa workshop class has been stalled. Indefinitely.

I've said before that exercise and writing seem unable to co-exist in my life. That feels to be still true, though for 2011, I have chosen to make health and exercise the priority. So that explains part of the lack of novel writing.

Bless you, William Trevor.
But another (not insignificant) part is that I feel paralyzed to work on The Leaving. I had extremely different sets of feedback from my Iowa class last summer and my 92-Y class this fall and it's left me, well, stuck in the middle. Unable to cut anything. Unable to add anything. Unable to see the right path.

As they are wont to do, though, my friends abroad coached me gently back into being in the mood to write. Maddy, especially, had some very insightful things to say about why I might be letting my perfectionist tendencies get in the way. And Angelique's compliments about my blog and how it makes her laugh made me blush in the backseat of a car ride around Paris.

I think I feel ready to open the door a tiny crack again.

So last night when we were commuting home in the train, Chris listened to a podcast and I daydreamed about Margaret (the main character of the book). Last night though I was a bit late in getting dinner ready for our dinner party, I found myself thinking about her too while stirring the curry. And during my run this morning, she was in the front of my brain.

And so in-between the running and the ballet and the swimming and the working and the traveling and the celebrating that is going to happen this month, I'm hopeful that a little bit of writing can go down too. I'm keeping the pressure low and the enthusiasm high. We'll see how it goes.